Blueberries are a success story at Costco, and the recipe can be easily summed up in one word: quality.
“Always chase quality,” said Todd Eagan, berry buyer for Costco Wholesale Corporation BB #:150902
Eagan provided the keynote address Sept. 29 during the virtual U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s annual conference.
Blueberries have seen dramatic increases in sales and volume at Costco stores, Eagan said, which has been a combination of better growing techniques and varieties, and consumer demand.
He said the growth rate has slowed in the past three years, but much of that has been deflationary and not connected to demand.
“Berries have lost some ground to heartier items during COVID, but overall, growth has still been strong for blueberries,” Eagan said.
He said he expects within the next five years for organic blueberry sales to catch and surpass conventional sales.
Costco is constantly evaluating the quality of products from its suppliers, and blueberries are no different.
“Costco members will pay a premium for premium fruit,” Eagan said.
Session moderator Brian Bocock, vice president of produce management for Naturipe Farms LLC, BB #:165382 said growers need to pay close attention to Costco’s quality demands for texture, flavor, size, appearance, age and packaging.
Eagan even said there are some attributes that rank higher than others.
“The U.S. consumer will forgive acid before softness,” he said, noting that the only thing that matters is the fruit’s quality when consumers buy it, rather than how it looks in the field.